CALGARY (Dow Jones)
A project to export liquefied natural gas from British Columbia's west coast to markets in Asia received approval from Canadian regulators Thursday.
KM LNG, a joint venture between Apache Corp. (APA), Encana Inc. (ECA) and EOG Resources Inc. (EOG), received the license from Canada's National Energy Board to export from a deepwater port in Kitimat, B.C.
The license is a step forward for the project, initially estimated to cost C$5.6 billion, which is still undergoing a feasibility study by the partners. If they decide to build it, the terminal could begin shipping natural gas to markets in Asia by late 2015, eventually shipping up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day.
It's the first license Canadian regulators have issued to export LNG, reflecting the shift in North American gas markets as horizontal drilling technology unlocked vast new supplies of natural gas from shale rock. The new supplies sent North American gas prices plummeting, and plans to open more terminals to import natural gas from abroad were converted to export from oversupplied markets in the U.S. and Canada.
"Kitimat LNG represents a remarkable opportunity to open up Asia Pacific markets to Canadian natural gas," KM LNG President Janine McArdle, who is also an Apache senior vice president, said in a statement. "This export license approval is another major milestone for Kitimat LNG as we move forward to market our LNG supply."
The U.S. took a similar step in May, approving plans by Houston-based Cheniere Energy Inc. (LNG) to export LNG from a terminal in Louisiana.
The KM LNG project, led by Apache, received a 20-year license from the Canadian government to export more than 9 trillion cubic feet of gas over the life of the project. Nearby gas basins in British Columbia and Alberta owned by Apache and EOG contain more than 19 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, according documents filed with regulators.
Calgary's Encana said in a recent presentation that an LNG export terminal will help find markets for gas produced from the Horn River basin in northeastern British Columbia, which is rich but a long distance from markets in the U.S. The company estimated that Asian countries will need an extra 15 billion cubic feet a day of new gas supply by 2020 in order to keep up with the growth in demand.
The initial cost to build the terminal was estimated last year at C$4.5 billion to build the terminal in two phases and C$1.1 billion to build a pipeline connecting it to supplies. A front-end engineering and design study expected to be complete by the end of this year will update the cost.
Apache leads the project and owns a 40% stake in the joint venture; Encana and EOG each own 30% stakes. The three companies are expected to make a decision on whether to proceed with construction in the first quarter of next year.
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